6 Unconventional Arm Exercises to Crush Strength Plateaus and Develop New Muscle

Rope Climb

For lots of guys, arm training can become stale and mundane. The old standards work at first, but after a while your body can adapt, causing strength and muscle growth to come to a halt. When that happens, you need to find new ways to challenge your arms strength and get them to grow.

Sound familiar? It’s time for your typical routine to take a back seat while you bust through plateaus with something new. Utilize these six exercises twice a week, plus the unconventional arm workout at the end of the list, to freshen up your workout and increase your arm size. Be ready to have some tighter sleeves on your shirts with this one.

1. Fists-on-bench tricep extension

This exercise will challenge even the strongest of lifters. A big factor with this exercise will be your body weight. Adjust your position as needed to increase or decrease your lever arm. As an added benefit, your core will take a beating as well.

How to do it: Find a sturdy weight bench that will not move during the exercise. Face the bench. Start by kneeling on the floor. Place your fists securely on the bench with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Lift your hips up and shift your weight to your toes, so you’re in a plank position. Now, keeping a solid core, fire your triceps and lift yourself until your arms are fully extended. Think about “pressing and extending” away from the bench. Pause at the top, and then lower yourself with control back into a plank position on the bench. That’s one rep.

2. Suspension strap triceps extension

Suspension straps—commonly known as TRX—help you decease or increase your leverage by adjusting your position, leaving a lot of room to make it difficult or manageable as needed. You can also light up your triceps with some forced reps and get in a lot of time under tension.

How to do it: Start in a standing position and grab the straps. Keeping your body in a plank, walk your feet backwards so you’re angled facing the floor. Move your arms up so your elbows are close to your forehead. Fire your triceps and extend your arms at the elbow while holding your upper arms still. Lower yourself back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

To make the exercise more difficult, walk your feet further back so your body is closer to horizontal; to make it tougher, walk forward so you’re closer to standing upright. For this workout, make sure you start out tough and then ease up as you fatigue. Like the bench triceps exercise, imagine pressing and extending away from the floor while maintaining a solid plank position.

3. Cable X-pulldown to triceps pushdown

This exercise starts out being a lat/back exercise but ends up torching your triceps. By utilizing the lats and upper back, you allow yourself to use more weight that a traditional reverse-grip triceps pushdown.

How to do it: Find a cable crossover unit and set the cable armatures to their highest point. Grab the left side with your right hand and vice-versa. Kneel down on one knee and cross the cables making an X. Grab the handles with your palms facing away from you, and perform a pulldown. When you get to the bottom of the lat pull, rotate your hands so your palms are facing toward you, and then extend at the elbow. Pause and squeeze at the bottom of the rep and then return with control to the top.

4. Legless rope climb

Climbing up a rope typically isn’t considered a strict biceps exercise, since it also hits so many other muscles—but don’t think your biceps don’t take a beating as well. Climbers and gymnasts typically don’t get huge because their disciplines reward a lightweight frame, but their arms are always jacked. Utilize rope climbs in your workouts and watch your biceps make some changes. If you do not have a rope to climb you can perform some neutral grip pull-ups.

How to do it: Find a rope that is 15-20 feet high or so, and make sure it’s securely fastened to something. From a standing position, grab onto the rope and start climbing hand-over-hand. Don’t use your legs to climb, but try to keep them under control—flailing around will just make things more difficult. When you get to the desired height, slowly climb hand-under-hand until you’re safely down to the bottom.

5. Row to hammer curl

Performing heavy back exercises will hit your biceps a great deal. Combine a traditional rowing exercise with a biceps exercise and you have the perfect bicep-building marriage. By performing a row with heavy weight and ending with more flexion at the elbow, you cause a lot of stimulation to the biceps. This movement will allow you to use more weight than you usually do for hammer curls.

How to do it: Grab a dumbbell that is about 60-70% of a weight you would usually perform traditional dumbbell row with. Assume a split stance with your hand on a bench. Begin to row the weight. About half the way up, perform a hammer curl. Squeeze and pause at the top and then lower slowly.

6. Fat-grip and thick-bar biceps curl

This is one of the most underused biceps exercise out there. Some athletes don’t have access to a thick bar, since most gyms don’t have them, but don’t let that deter you—you can buy various brands of fat grip accessories that can be attached to bars, dumbbells and various cable and machine attachment. You will activate more muscle tissue due to the extra grip strength that will be needed.

How to do it: Simply put on the fat grips accessories and perform a traditional barbell biceps curl.

The Workout

Rest as needed between sets.

Legless rope climb: 3 sets of 2 climbs

Fists-on-bench triceps extension: 3 sets of 8 reps

Cable X-pulldown to triceps extension: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Row to hammer curl: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Fat grip biceps curl: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Strap triceps extension: 3 sets of reps to failure

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